Talking points by Francoise Jacob, UN Resident Coordinator in Serbia, on the occasion of the presentation of UPR Report.
Good morning, dobrodosli, drago mi je što sam danas sa vama. Ja stvarno volim da govorim srpski, ali ljudska prava su teška tema, pa ću nastaviti na engleskom
I would like to start with a word of welcome to the new Minister of human rights and social dialog, Mr. Žigmanov, who joins us for the first time. I was very pleased to see that the Ministry stayed in the structure of the new cabinet, as sign of commitment and continuity. At the UN we hope that together we will expand and strengthen the consultations and cooperation between the Ministry and other partners, including the wider civil society.
Now let me go to the topic of the day, the universal periodic review. Just a few words first to frame our discussion today.
The UPR is one of the key UN Human Rights Mechanisms that aim to advance the human rights agenda globally and in country. The UPR is the broadest mechanism that covers all human rights,. The UN in Serbia supports the development and timely submission of reports that are relevant, qualitative, analytical and evidence based, such as the report that will be presented today by the civil society.
In June 2018, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a Report on Serbia within the Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, in which it noted that Serbia had accepted and thus committed to fulfilling 175 out of the 190 recommendations to improve human rights over the following four and a half years. These recommendations fall into roughly 16/7 categories, many of which will be addressed today. The Republic of Serbia now has to prepare its report on the fulfilment of the recommendations, to be discussed by the UN Human Rights Council during the 43rd session of the Working Group on the UPR in May 2023. In addition to the State Report, the UN Human Rights Council members will assess the fulfilment of the recommendations by also taking into account the reports of other actors participating in the UPR process – international organizations, independent institutions and civil society organizations.
I will share 2 main observations:
1. The importance of having joint reports, such as the one submitted by the Platform, as they stress the joint opinion on multiple topics, in a strong and unique voice and prevent different, possibly more subjective interpretations. It is important that these reports are comprehensive, objective and analytical – this means they consider laws, their content, their coherent and consistent application, their monitoring, the effective functioning of systems put in place, public narrative, information to and engagement with citizens, and more. Considering that human rights reviews, including the UPR, are continuous processes, the submission of a final end-of-cycle report is just as important as continuous monitoring and follow-up to the recommendations received. In this regard, it is much welcomed that the Platform previously submitted the Mid-Term Report as well. Continuous communication and cooperation between the State and non-state actors are necessary
2. The need for reports to outline Progresses, Gaps and New areas of focus: UPR reports must outline in an objective manner, advancement on recommendations, as well as gaps or regress, or new areas of focus. In our report just recently finalised, we have identified the new, but certainly important and urgent topic of climate change and environmental rights. We believe that it should be reviewed and addressed in the next cycle, including in the context of the UN Human Rights Council resolution 48/13 adopted in October 2021. This resolution recognizes a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a human right. In addition, the UPR has not been used for monitoring labour rights, as there are other existing mechanisms. However, there is space under the UPR to address elements of labour rights and this will be discussed in one of the panels.
To Conclude, what happens next? Next year we will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the UDHR which is based on the powerful premise that we are all “born free and equal in dignity and rights”. It is also the year in which the Republic of Serbia will undergo the 4th UPR review in August 2023 This is an important moment for all relevant stakeholders: for the State authorities to reassess their human rights priorities and develop concrete actions for the improvements (follow-up); for the civil society and independent institutions to closely monitor and report on the implementation of the new set of recommendations; for the international community and developing partners to reassess their engagement and further support aimed at supporting State authorities in their compliance with the international human rights standards; and for citizens to increase their awareness, knowledge and actions on the wider range of human rights.
Good luck for today, I look forward, hvala